Tag Archives: Air

Wednesday Poetry Blogging


The Wind

~Dafydd ap Gwilym (Translated By Gwyneth Lewis)

Skywind, skillful disorder,
Strong tumult walking over there,
Wondrous man, rowdy-sounding,
World hero, with neither foot nor wing.
Yeast in cloud loaves, you were thrown out
Of  sky’s pantry, with not one foot,
How swiftly you run, and so well
This moment above the high hill.

Tell me, north wind of the cwm,
Your route, reliable hymn.
Over the lengths of  the world you fly,
Tonight, hill weather, please stay high,
Ah man, go over Upper Aeron
Be lovely and cool, stay in clear tune.
Don’t hang about or let that maniac,
Litigious Little Bow, hold you back,
He’s poisonous. Society
And its goods are closed to me.

Thief  of  nests, though you winnow leaves
No one accuses you, nor impedes
You, no band of men, nor magistrate’s hand,
Nor blue blade, nor flood, nor rain.
Indeed, no son of  man can kill you,
Fire won’t burn nor treason harm you.
You shall not drown, as you’re aware,
You’re never stuck, you’re angle-less air.
No need of  swift horse to get about,
Nor bridge over water, nor any boat.
No officer or force will hand you over
To court for fingering treetop feathers.
Sight cannot see you, wide-open den,
But thousands hear you, nest of   great rain.

You are God’s grace across the world,
The roar when breaking tops of oaks are hurled,
You hang clouds’ notes in heavens’ score
And dance athletically over moors
Dry-humored, clever creature,
Over clouds’ stepping-stones you travel far,
Archer on fields of snow up high,
Disperser of rubbish piles in loud cries.
Storm that’s stirring up the sea
Randy surfer where land meets sea.
Bold poet, rhyming snowdrifts you are,
Sower, scatterer of  leaves you are,
Clown of peaks, you get off scot-free,
Hurler of mad-masted, foaming sea.

I was lost once I felt desire
For Morfudd of the golden hair.
A girl has caused my disgrace,
Run up to her father’s house,
Knock on the door, make him open
To my messenger before the dawn,
Find her if there’s any way,
Give song to the voice of  my sigh.
You come from unsullied stars,
Tell my noble, generous her:
For as long as I’m alive
I will be her loyal slave.
My face without her’s a mess
If it’s true she’s not been faithless.

Go up high, see the one who’s white,
Go down below, sky’s favorite.
Go to Morfudd Llwyd the fair,
Come back safe, wealth of the air.

Picture found here.

Wednesday Poetry Blogging


The Wild Swans at Coole

~ William Butler Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

(You can find a lovely audio of the poem at the Poetry Foundation if you like to listen to your poetry.)

No one knows for sure (and that’s enough, alone, to make me cry), but there’s some indication that the word “Potomac” means “River of Swans.” It’s what I like to believe. I drive every morning and every evening past the beautiful Potomac, past the Three Sisters — three tiny islands that sit just between Teddy Roosevelt Island and the Virginia shore — just before the river turns a large, lovely, lazy bend. I’ve never seen a swan there. I’ve seen an eagle, sea gulls, ducks, many Canada geese, and hawks, but no swans. I’m jealous of Yeats.

What’s Autumn like in your watershed?

Elements: Air

This looks so much like ballet to me.

Does this video change anything about the way that you’ll call the Element of Air next time?

And Now, a Word about the Element of Air

Winds During Hurricane Sandy
Let us bless the invigoration
Of clean, fresh air.

That gentleness of air
That holds down and slows the rain,
Let it fall down.

The shyness of air
That never shows its face.

The force of air
In wall after wall
Of straining wind.

In the name of the air,
The breeze,
And the wind,
May our souls
Stay in rhythm
With eternal

By John O’Donohue, from “In Praise of Air,” in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings.

Picture found here.

Elements: Air


~ David Whyte

When the music started, I wondered
where it came from, the low haunt
of an air carried on the careless wind,
the lift of a jackdaw caught by a breeze
from the mountain, someone
was playing the flute hidden by a wall,
not knowing that anyone, anywhere,
could listen in, walking through
the simplest song that seemed to need
the broadest, clearest, upland sky.

I listend then, to the rarest of music,
the one played for no one
Every hesitation and every step
the haunting took across the sky was let alone
to touch its full measure;
every note allowed to float beyond itself
to a world with no approaching end.

There was no looking for the right
beginning, no search for the perfect close,
and no listener but the player
themselves beyond all listening,
so that I felt in that modal harmony
of stone and grass and mountain sky
and the clear view across the blue lake
below as if I stood alone and entire
with a world held in place, as if
memory could be true, and horizons
hold their own unspoken promise,
and that grief might be its own cure.

And in the last held moment before
the music stopped and left the mountain
to itself, and the final, un-final note slurred
into the raptured air, as if the deepest pain
could be a long way to somewhere after all,
and of all things, a broken, careworn, barely open
but listening heart, the one to serve me best.


I love the contrast between the
“careless wind” of the first stanza and the “raptured air” of the final one.

This poem, ostensibly about music, reminds me of another one, ostensibly about the same subject:

Transcendental Etude

~ Adrienne Rich

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

At most we’re allowed a few months
of simply listening to the simple
line of a woman’s voice singing a child
against her heart. Everything else is too soon,
too sudden, the wrenching-apart, that woman’s heartbeat
heard ever after from a distance
the loss of that ground-note echoing
whenever we are happy, or in despair.

Everything else seems beyond us,
we aren’t ready for it, nothing that was said
is true for us, caught naked in the argument,
the counterpoint, trying to sightread
what our fingers can’t keep up with, learn by heart
what we can’t even read. And yet
it is this we were born to. We aren’t virtuosi
or child prdigies, there are no prodigies
in this realm, only a half-blind, stubborn
cleaving to the timbre, the tones of what we are,
even when all the texts describe it differently.

And we’re not performers, like Liszt, competing
against the world for speed and brilliance
(the 79-year-old pianist said, when I asked her
What makes a virtuoso?—Competitiveness.)
The longer I live the more I mistrust
theatricality, the false glamour cast
by performance, the more I know its poverty beside
the truths we are salvaging from
the splitting-open of our lives
The woman who sits watching, listening,
eyes moving in the darkness
is reheasing in her body, hearing-out in her blood
a score touched off in her perhaps
by some words, a few chords, from the stage,
a tale only she can tell.

But there come times—perhaps this is one of them
when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die;
we when have to pull back from the incantations,
rhythms we’ve moved to thoughtlessly,
and disenthrall ourselves, bestow
ourselves to silence, or a severer listening, cleansed
of oratory, formulas, choruses, laments, static
crowning the wires. We cut the wires,
find ourselves in free-fall, as if
our true home were the undimensional
solitudes, the rift
in the Great Nebula.
No one who survives to speak
new language has avoided this:
the cutting-away of an old force that held her
rooted to an old ground
the pitch of utter loneliness
where she herself and all creation
seem equally dispersed, weightless, her being a cry
to which no echo comes or can ever come. . . .


The element of Air is endlessly open, isn’t it? Driving home today, alongside my beloved Potomac River, I listened to Thou Dusky Spirit of the Wood, a song about Earth and Air.

What are you listening to?

Eagles for Eostara

All day, my Bit of Earth has rung with the sounds of children, esp. the 4 little girls who live in the 2 houses across the street, playing outside. It’s way warmer than it has any reason to be, here, a few days ahead of the Spring Solstice. I woke up this morning to the sound of children’s voices coming through my open windows, then dressed and drove to G/Son’s martial arts tournament. Afterwards, he wanted to go to the local Nature Center.

I know that I’ve blogged about this before, but G/Son and I love going to the Nature Center. This morning, we were almost the only ones there, so the wonderful naturalist was great about sharing her wealth of information with us. She told us that the stuffed bird was red-tailed hawk (not a falcon, as G/Son and I guessed). She told us we were right about which snake was the copperhead and which was the rattlesnake. She showed us how to make a tiny tornado in the bottles filled with liquid. G/Son and I walked all the way around the pond and saw nine (!) turtles sunning themselves on fallen longs (“sunbathing,” G/Son called it). We saw two Canada Geese and at least a few bees and moths. We’ve been checking out this website which, last night, showed an eagle chick emerging from its shell. Technology can, IMHO, be amazing. A few minutes ago, I watched daddy eagle feed his less-than-a-day-old chick some fish. There’s one more egg to hatch, likely tonight or tomorrow. Welcome to early Eoastara. These eagles are south of Richmond, just inside the southern boundary of what I consider my landbase. G/Son and I think that they’re v cool.

When I invoke Air, I often visualize eagles. I shan’t be gone long. You come too.

Elements: Air. A Murmuration. And a The(a)ology of Interconnectedness.

Some Thursday Evening Ballet Blogging for you:

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Last year, Italian theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi took on the challenge of explaining the murmuration. What he found, as ably explained by my old Wired colleague Brandon Keim, is that the math equations that best describe starling movement are borrowed “from the literature of ‘criticality,’ of crystal formation and avalanches — systems poised on the brink, capable of near-instantaneous transformation.” They call it “scale-free correlation,” and it means that no matter how big the flock, “If any one bird turned and changed speed, so would all the others.”

More: here

And, of course, this ballet and the scientists’ explanation of it, remind me of this interview with Catherine Keller (tweeted by @alileighlilly):

In classical physics, nothing can happen faster than the speed of light because no signal can propagate faster than the speed of light. But what was showing its ghostly face in quantum entanglement is a kind of influence that seems to be instantaneous and seems to take place between two connected particles, no matter how far away they are. So, rather than become more and more indifferent to one another the further away they are, these particles will forever respond to each other instantaneously as though you are effecting both of them in the same way, at the same moment.

They’re entangled?

Right. It looks like, from a certain point of view, nothing is separate from anything at all. As the novelist Jeanette Winterson puts it, in her book Gut Symmetries: our separateness is a sham.

But what is a theological entanglement?

My book [laughs]. It’s a way of understanding our sometimes spooky, sometimes trustworthy, relationships… theologically.

Theological entanglement is a way of reflecting on our relationships—all of our relationships, at once, together. When we do this, we get to such an impossibly infinite place that, I think, we resort to God language. The metaphors of the divine, of a love that permeates all things instantaneously, an embrace that holds everything everywhere in its mindfulness, a spirit (even a holy ghost) that has the character of spooky action at a distance is a metaphor by which can gather our very mysterious interdependencies (as creatures) on each other.

We are constituted, in every moment, by our relations. Some of them we compose, but they comprise the conditions in which we are composed. Theological entanglement is a form of what’s called “relational theology.” Entanglement is meant to give a more physical, and spooky edge to our interconnectedness. This isn’t just about the apophasis of an infinite God, but about the element of unknowability in all of us—as creatures made in the image of the unknowable. It looks, even from the vantage point of quantum indeterminacy, that every creature has an element of the unknowable or unpredictable to it. For every electron, you’re unable to measure (simultaneously) its location and its momentum.

It’s the way that the starlings demonstrate what we’re learning about electrons and quarks. (It’s the way the camera follows us in slo-mo, the way we look to us all.) It’s what ballet is often trying to do and it’s the Mother’s saline solution to wash away from our eyes the enchantment of forgetfulness, the spell that lulls us into imagining that we are, that anything is, separate

How can anyone live on this Earth and not spend every moment in blissful awe?

As Mary Oliver Said:

Where Does the Temple Begin,
Where Does It End?

There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.

And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.

The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,
out of the water and back in; the goldfinches sing
from the unreachable top of the tree.

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.

Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.

And thinking: maybe something will come, some
shining coil of wind,
or a few leaves from any old tree –
they are all in this too.

And now I will tell you the truth.
Everything in the world

At least, closer.

And, cordially.

Like the nibbling, tinsel-eyed fish; the unlooping snake.
Like goldfinches, little dolls of gold
fluttering around the corner of the sky

of God, the blue air.

And, as Mary Oliver also said:

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

May it be so for you. May it be so for the starlings who live and dance the ballet on your landbase. May it be so for ballet dancers and quarks.